Fire Tower Project

For several years now the Friends group has been working toward restoring the Dickinson Hill Fire Tower. Actual physical work began in May, 2011. As of May 27, 2011 the wood work was completed, that is, new steps and new platforms. During the fall and winter of 2011 and 2012 the metal work began. The handrail and its support system was completed in January, 2012. The next phase of the work consisted of replacing the rusty X braces. This work was completed in May, 2012. Volunteers assisted the contractor at that time. Last minute loose ends will be completed before the official opening on June 25, 2012. Much work has been done behind the scenes by Dick Gibbs to organize all the current work and the work phases completed so far.

Below are pictures of the Tower before and during restoration. Find more information below the photos.

Dickinson Hill Fire Tower (May 9, 2011) - before work began

Dickinson Hill Fire Tower (May 9, 2011) - before work began

Work Begins - Clearing the area

Work Begins - Clearing the area

Work Continues - Clearing the area

Work Continues - Clearing the area

Work Continues - Clearing the area

Work Continues - Clearing the area

Work Continues - Analyzing the tower

Work Continues - Analyzing the tower

Working on platforms - beginning the work

Working on platforms - beginning the work

Working on steps - cutting the boards

Working on steps - cutting the boards

Working on platforms - removing the old boards

Working on platforms - removing the old boards

Working on the platforms - placing the new boards

Working on the platforms - placing the new boards

Working on the platforms - checking the work

Working on the platforms - checking the work

Preparing landing boards

Preparing landing boards

Priming metal and laying boards

Priming metal and laying boards

Tied in for safety

Tied in for safety

New steps and landings - lower levels

New steps and landings - lower levels

New steps and landings - looking up

New steps and landings - looking up

All wood replaced - May 21, 2011

All wood replaced - May 21, 2011

Dickinson Hill Fire Tower - The flag waves high again! October 18, 2011

Dickinson Hill Fire Tower - The flag waves high again! October 18, 2011

The following set of photos were taken at the ribbon cutting ceremony at the fire tower on October 23, 2011, in honor of Helen Ellett. She was the last fire tower observer at this site. Find other interesting facts about Helen in other parts of this website.

Preparing for the ribbon cutting. Dick Gibbs, Helen Ellett, Melissa Miller (director of GLSP), Randy Kneer

Preparing for the ribbon cutting. Dick Gibbs, Helen Ellett, Melissa Miller (director of GLSP), Randy Kneer

Helen performing the honors.

Helen performing the honors.

Some of the attendees at the ceremony. They are under the tower.

Some of the attendees at the ceremony. They are under the tower.

The Trailriders group attended. Helen is a founding member.

The Trailriders group attended. Helen is a founding member.

Enjoying the day. Helen and Shari Gibbs.

Enjoying the day. Helen and Shari Gibbs.

A New Day Dawning for the Tower

The Dickinson Hill Fire Tower was erected and placed into service in 1924 on the northern slope of the Rensselaer Plateau. It is the only remaining fire tower in Rensselaer County and provides an unparalleled view including Mt. Marcy and the High Peaks in the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Taconic Range that forms the border between New York and Massachusetts to the east and the Helderberg Mountains to the south and west. The near-field view is of the forest canopy that comprises the Rensselaer Plateau, the fifth largest unfrgamented forest in New York State.

For years the Tower has been neglected, but in 2010 an agreement was reached between the New York State Police who control the entire 12 acre tower site and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation which transferred control of the tower itself to Grafton Lakes State Park. The Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park has agreed to carry out the necessary work to restore the Tower so that it can be a permanent and publicly accessible feature of the Park. In March, 2011 the Tower was placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and was accepted for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Restoration of the Tower

Restoration work is now underway by volunteers of the Friends group. All the wood steps have been replaced as of May 14, 2011. The landings will be replaced next and then safety handrails and screening was be brought up to current code (completed in January, 2012. In May, 2012, the large metal “X” braces were replaced. The entire structure was painted in May. Other work to make the Tower and site a great place to hike to and enjoy the views will be done. The Tower will become a permanent work and maintenance site for the Friends group. Note that any work on the Tower must be authorized by the administration of the Grafton Lakes State Park and performed by the Friends group.

Access to the Tower and Site

Access to the Tower will be restricted and limited during portions of this work. The Tower is accessible by hiking from the parking lot at the north end of Long Pond Road, within the Park. There is no parking or public vehicular access to the Tower driveway.

Security of the grounds and the Tower falls under the jurisdiction of New York State Park Police. Please be attentive to all posted rules and signs.

You Can Help!

The Friends group is a 501(c) 3 not for profit charitable organization and donations to help with Tower restoration are tax deductible and kept separate from all other funds. Send donations to Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park, Tower Restoration. Mail your check to: Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park, P.O. Box 163, Grafton, NY 12082-0163.

For online donations go to the Park homepage at: http://www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/53/details.aspx

Click on “Donate to this State Park” in the left hand column. All donations in 2011 will be specifically directed to materials and equipment needed to reopen the Tower to public access!

Please join the Friends group to participate in the restoration project. Contact Melissa Miller, Park Manager, at 518-279-1155 to learn more. Dick Gibbs is the Chair of the Tower Restoration Committee. He can be reached by email: rgibbs@nycap.rr.com

You may also fill out a form from this site. Click on Membership Application

Helen Ellett – A Grafton Original

Helen was one of the first women to become a NYS Fire Observer. She lives in Grafton. Her remarkable personal history has been documented in recently published book by Randy Kneer, entitled Remember When: The Untold Story of Helen Ellett.

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